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Archive for April, 2012

What did I say during my series preview? The Caps would be fools to try to beat the Rangers at our own game. They are far more explosive offensively than us, at least in terms of raw talent, and for them to sit back and try to out forecheck and outdefend us would be foolish. Sure, they *COULD* win a 7 game series against us like that, but, they would almost assuredly manhandle us if they opened things up against us and run and gunned us right out of the playoffs. Instead the Caps sat back, let the Rangers pound them with some hit, let the Rangers wear their D down with hits, let the Rangers manhandle their D below the hashmarks, and the Rangers came out with a 3-1 win.

Sure, the Caps hit 4 goal posts. So what? How many times against them in the playoffs did WE hit a ton of goalposts and have nothing to show for it? Those pucks gotta go in the net, not almost in the net.

Does this win make me now supremely confident about our chances? No, we still don’t match up well against this team at all in terms of the players skill sets, however, if the Caps continue to try to force this series into a low scoring affair, they will give the Rangers every opportunity to steal wins here and there, and those wins can fairly quickly add up to 4. We’ve got 1 banked, now we just gotta win 3 of the next 6. Play .500 hockey from here on out, and the Rangers advance. Win game 2, and the odds become extremely tilted in our direction.

Remember, last time the Rangers didn’t have Richards, Kreider, Hagelin or Callahan when last these teams met. Sure, they could shut down Gaborik, as every team has done so far. But the Rangers have far more offensive weapons than they did, they will be able to put in 2ish goals a game, something they weren’t able to do last time around when the Caps also tried to out defend the Rangers in a playoff series. This isn’t last years Rangers team where the Caps could play a more defensive game and still manhandle us.

Speaking of Gaborik, I want to just make my stance on him crystal clear. I think he’s actually played quite well. He had the same amount of shots on goal as Ovechkin had in far fewer minutes. He’s the #1 reason Brad Richards was able to score as the Defense completely focused on him and let Richards do whatever the hell he wanted to before he scored. It’s also the same reason Richards was able to score on the 5 on 3 against the Sens, as the Sens defense focused completely on shutting down Gabby.

Gabby is the #1 focal point of the opposing teams. Shut down Gaborik. I don’t blame them either. Without Gaborik this team is far less formidable. But, they are still a good team. We have Kreider, Richards, Hagelin, Callahan, Stepan, etc. Hopefully we will get back Boyle and Dubinsky. This team has more weapons than the last time the Caps played us. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Gaborik neutralized completely in these playoffs, scoring here or there, but for the most part held in check. If he does, it’s going to be up to the rest of the team to pick up the slack. Remember, the more you focus on shutting down 1 guy, the more that opens up time and space for everyone else. Does Richards score his goal if the Caps D basically gives him the shot rather than leaving Gabby alone? Nope. The Rangers need to out secondary-score the opposition. I said this over on the HFBoards prior to the series. The key to this series will be how the Rangers 2nd line plays, NOT how well their first line plays.

Speaking of the second line, we do have to talk a little bit about Chris Kreider. The Boston kid who stepped right into the playoffs and right into the Rangers hearts was….again, the Rangers best forward on the ice. That’s 2 games in a row for those of you keeping count. The Hagelinesque skater who is built like a tank blasted a slapper through Holtby and secured the win, throwing in an assist on Richards goal to boot. Wow. How do you top this? The Caps are going to soon learn, if you focus completely on Gaborik, this kid is going to start torching you from the 2nd line. Don’t forget about Stepan either, perfect pass to lead Kreider for the goal too.

OK, I’m done, off to bed!

Rangers VS Capitals Series Preview…

Posted by inferno272 on April 28th, 2012

Let’s just get right into it.

The Offense:

Statistically they were at a dead heat, the Rangers ranked 11th at 2.71 Goals per game with the Caps ranked 14 at 2.66 G/G. Basically a push. However, let’s be real guys, Ovechkin, Semin, Backstrom, and Green are a much more dangerous tandem than Gaborik, Callahan, Richards, and Del Zotto. In the playoffs neither team really showed much in the scoring department, the Rangers averaging exactly 2 goals per game over 7 games, and the Caps averaging 2.29 goals per game. The Caps were better, for sure, and the Rangers just couldn’t seem to figure out the Ottawa defense. And when it comes to defense, the Caps are worlds better than the Sens, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. One thing that may come into play here, is that the Caps have been giving a little less ice time to their stars, with Backstrom and Ovechkin getting about 2-3 minutes fewer per game than they did at this point last season. Also of note, the last time the Rangers met the caps, last year, the Rangers were without now captain Ryan Callahan, and Brad Richards who was not a Ranger. Not to mention Carl Hagelin and Chris Kreider the left wing missles of doom. Ok that was corny, but it still is worth noting. Whoever the right defenseman are for the Caps better get used to seeing a winger right on top of them every time they touch the puck. Hagelin and Kreider will be all over the Caps and it will be interesting to see how they handle that pressure. The Bruins are not the same team as the Rangers. They try to funnel everything to their defenseman for the long blasts, then they go hunting for rebound chances. The Rangers, on the other hand, much prefer to attack from their forwards, bringing in the defenseman as late men to finish off the play instead of as the focal point of the play. The Caps will try to clog up the neutral zone and counter punch the Rangers. This is the key, because while it takes the Rangers 20-30 quality scoring chances before they can put 2 goals being the oppositions netminder, it can only take the Caps 5 or 6 quality chances to put a few behind Lundqvist, their shooters know how to finish, ours don’t. Advantage Washington.

Defense:
The Rangers in the playoffs have the 3rd best defense in the league giving up 1.86 goals per game, while the Caps are right behind them at 2.14 goals per game allowed, good enough for 6th. During the regular season it’s a much different story, as the Rangers were still 3rd at 2.22 goals per game, but Washington was a terrible 21st in the league at 2.76 goals per game. Did the Washington team that we saw in the first round, that was able to slow down the Bruins offense (3rd in the NHL during the regular season), just have a flash in the pan? Or are they for real? Time will tell. If the Caps can shut down the Rangers already mediocre offense, the King is going to have to make 1 or 2 goals stand up every night. It’s tough to ask that of any goaltender. On the flip side, if the Rangers are able to contain the Caps stars, in particular Alexander Semin who has been a Ranger killer since he joined the NHL, then they should be good to go. This will be where the game is won and lost. Advantage Rangers

Goaltending:
Henrik Lundqvist was just nominated for the Hart Trophy and the Vezina Trophy….do I really need to talk about him? No, we know what we have in net. The best goalie in the world right now. Let’s talk about the other guy. Holtby was outstanding in the first series, seeing 31 more shots than Henrik Lundqvist but only giving up 3 more goals than him. Holtby was under seige…sort of. If you watch the games, all of the Bruins chances were from the outside, and from blasts from the point. That is how that team plays. They TRY to keep everything to the outside so that their D can be the focal point of their offense, leading to tips, and rebound goals. This is not really how the Rangers play. They try to wear you down with cycle pressure, they create a lot of their offense from below the hashmarks as opposed to from the blueline. Therefore the shots that Holtby was seeing, and he was seeing most of them, weren’t really high quality chances unless the teams can tip those pucks. He really didn’t make too many deflection saves to my recollection. Furthermore, Holtby gave up a LOT of rebounds, and on many of the shots he saved he had NO CLUE where the pucks were after he stopped the initial chance. The Rangers need to pounce on these chances, they need to force the kid to move, and they need someone attacking his crease at every opportunity. Holtby is a good goalie, but he’s not Henrik Lundqvist, advantage Rangers.

Coaching.

John Tortorella has won a stanley cup. He’s coached a team to the promise land. He’s coached the 4th youngest team in the league to the best record in the East, and has them as the highest remaining seed left in the playoffs. Dale Hunter, to my recollection, still holds the NHL record for most games played in the playoffs without a ring. He’s never won anything. He coached one of the most talented teams in the league to the 7th spot, and a squeaking win over a Boston team that, let’s face it, aside from one insane dominant month where they pretty much didn’t lose a single game, was really just a 7th or 8th seed caliber team. Advantage Rangers.

The X Factor:
Carl Hagelin and Chris Kreider give the Rangers something the Caps have yet to see, 2 speed demons who are all over the puck. You can’t take your eyes off of them, and you have to figure that the more Torts sees these kids the more ice time he’s going to give them. The specialty teams will be huge as always, you don’t expect the Rangers to do much, but if that is the case they MUST play the Caps even at specialty teams too, by not allowing any PP goals against. Play this game at even strength.

The Verdict:
I never wanted the Rangers to play the Caps. Not for one minute. This was the team that scared me the most, and they still do. More than the Flyers, the Bruins, ok…maybe less than the Penguins, but still, they scare me a lot. However, this was more about the run and gun Caps. If they try to open up the Rangers and play that style, I think the Caps can win this series in 5 or 6 games. The Rangers just can not withstand that kind of an onslaught. However, the Caps have tried to, well, basically, play like the Rangers do. They are trying to play in their own zone, play D, etc, etc. However, the Rangers have been doing it all season long, and Hunter really only has this team playing the style the Rangers have played in the last few weeks. If Hunter forces this team to hold back and play a low scoring game, I think that plays right into the Rangers hands. If he had any common sense at all, he’s open things up and just obliterate the Rangers with wave after wave of offensive power. The same way the Flyers wiped the floor with the Pens, that’s what Washington *should* try to do to wipe the floor with the Rangers. Basically, place your bets that they can’t score more goals than you can, despite the Caps having a rookie in net, and the Rangers having Lundqvist. It sounds suicidal, but that’s really the best way to beat the Rangers. Sure, we can hold our own for some stretches, but we are prone to bending under relentless attacks. The Penguins did it to us, the Habs did it to us, etc. The Senators tried to play a more physical type of game, and in the end, we won, because that’s the type of game we are designed to win. The Caps, if they try to play our game, they will lose. So, to me, I’m going to give this a caveat, if the Caps try to force this into a low scoring series, Rangers in 7. If the Caps open up this series into a match of which team can outscore the other, the Rangers will get hammered, Caps in 5. Will be interesting to see which Capital team decides to show up.

Razor Thin – Senators @ Rangers Game 7 Post Game Thoughts…

Posted by inferno272 on April 27th, 2012

In the final 6 games against the Ottawa Senators, the Rangers offensive juggernaut of a team poured on the goals against the hapless Senator defense. Wait. No they didn’t. What they did do was manage a meager, a miniscule, a paltry 10 goals in the final 6 games. 10 goals in 6 games averages out to 1.67 goals per game. That’s less than 2 goals a night…and Henrik Lundqvist made that stand up leading the team to a 7 game series win. Granted, the Rangers offense has looked decent at times this series, and you really do have to tip your hat to Craig Anderson who made some truly spectacular saves this series, with that said, the Rangers, while they have to be thrilled they won, are going to need a whole hell of a lot more from their offense than less than 2 goals a game going forward.

Getting back to this one, it was yet another game where Henrik Lundqvist had to stand on his head. The #1 star of the game, and the series presumably, made some stops against Milan Michalek that will have the Senators sniper seeing a therapist pronto. Henrik was at his absolute best during crunch time as the Rangers retreated into a defensive shell for some reason and the Sens just poured it on with numerous scoring chances. Henrik stood tall, and the Rangers found themselves heading off to the 2nd round.

The single most important thing that happened in this round though was the emergence of rookie Chris Kreider. The phenom we have all been waiting for has really delivered since joining the Rangers. His first 3 games were uneven as he bounced around from line to line, but the last 2 games, he was absolutely incredibly, and tonight, he was the Rangers best forward on the ice, playing 18+ minutes in only his 5th NHL game, and, amazingly, playing the final 30 seconds with the Rangers protecting a 1 goal lead. Granted it was while on the PP and in the offensive zone, but still, incredible confidence shown by Torts in the kid by throwing him out there. Torts, you sir, have some big brass balls.

People have been crapping on Marian Gaborik this series, and I for one think it’s entirely unjustified. Gabby has had some of the Rangers best chances all series long, he simply has not buried his chances. There is a difference between being invisible, and being unable to finish. Gabby played just like he’s played all season, except the puck just isn’t going in for him right now. Let’s also not fail to point out that Anderson was spectacular in this series at times himself. While the Rangers did only muster 10 goals, they could have scored more. Anderson was exceptional. But, that’s to be expected. These are the playoffs, teams with garbage goaltending are nowhere to be seen, every team from here on out is going to have a damn good goalie.

A preview of the series with Washington will be up sometime tomorrow. I’m not happy at all with this matchup. Not….one….bit.

Did The League Not Have This Angle?

Posted by inferno272 on April 25th, 2012

To all the pundits going on WFAN saying that they thought it was the right call. Has anyone not seen this angle? Puck is clearly stationary, then kicked away from Henrik by Neil.

Period.

How did the war room not have this angle?

Horseshit.

It was do or die for the Rangers tonight, and they survived…barely…thanks to the refs.

They won, thanks in part to the refs calling a few ticky tacky calls against the Senators, but they also nearly lost this game thanks to an UNBELIEVABLY awful call where Henrik Lundqvist was not only interfered with, but the Senators clearly kicked the puck into the net. It was just a horrific display of reffing for both teams, tonight. The Rangers got more calls for than against, but the one that went against them was mind bogglingly bad.

The actual game though was pretty well played by the Rangers. Getting Carl Hagelin back into the lineup was huge, as it allowed the top line to be re-united, and allowed Torts to try the combination of Kreider with Stepan and Callahan which was easily the best line on the ice for either team. Chris Kreider was all over the ice tonight, causing turnovers, getting in on the forecheck HARD, scoring the game winning goal, and creating several other chances to boot. Make no mistake about it folks, Kreider was a force tonight. The Rangers got a big time boost from the kid.

On the negative side, Brandon Dubinsky continues to play some of the worst hockey of his career. This is just a continuation of what has been a disastrous season for what was once the Rangers most promising young player in their system. Dubinsky has been passed on the depth charts by Ryan Callahan, Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider, and Carl Hagelin in 1 years time. This has been just a horrific season for #17, and his salary is going to make it mighty hard to keep him going forward unless he can turn it around big time. Wouldn’t game 7 be just the perfect time for Dubi to finally do something to help this team win a game? Maybe score a goal, or set one up? Or do something other than take up time and space? Don’t get me wrong, Dubi isn’t a detriment to the team when he is on the ice. He plays hard, is always on the right side of the puck, etc, but boy oh boy, the kid is not producing 1 iota of offense this season. You can blame his linemates all you want, but the kid has gotten chances to play with Gaborik and Richards. Stepan and Callahan, Richards and Callahan, Anisimov and Callahan, and hasn’t done JACK. At least Anisimov doesn’t make all that much money, so his lack of production isn’t nearly as big a deal going forward. You can afford to have a 35-40 point player in Anisimov on the 3rd line earning under 2 mil a season, but you can’t pay 4.2 mil a season to a guy putting up even worse numbers than AA. That’s just unacceptable.

It was great to see the Rangers Power Play finally win them a game. It almost did so a few games back, but tonight it actually did lead to a win. The Rangers, hopefully, can take some confidence from their PP and carry it forward. The key to their PP? Shooting the puck and charging the net. Amazing how that works aye?

You can’t win if you don’t score any goals. I know thats a stupid thing to bring up, since everyone knows that, but it’s important nonetheless. I’ve said it countless times, the Rangers lack of offensive punch to really be considered a Stanley Cup favorite. They have solid goaltending and solid defense, but their offense is all based on Marian Gaborik putting pucks in the net, and the other forwards chipping in here and there. They lack the secondary, and tertiary scoring threats that other teams have. Callahan has been fairly invisible in terms of scoring chances. He’s burying the few that he’s getting, but he’s not getting nearly enough for my liking. Brad Richards is a setup man, nobody is open for him to set them up. Who else we got? Nobody. The Rangers best offensive player this game might have been Ryan McDonagh. Ouch.

Sure, Torts might be happy with the teams effort, they certainly had a high number of shots on goal, but they didn’t get those pucks past the goalie. You know who would have helped with that? Rick Nash. I’m not saying the Rangers should have given up the boatload of players required to get him, but you can sure as hell see why Sather wanted the guy so badly. He knew what most of us have been saying for a while now. This team lacks the offensive talent to win going forward.

Brandon Dubinsky, zip. Derek Stepan, zip. Artem Anisimov, zip. Getting nothing from those guys has killed this team so far. Is the series over? No, but if those guys don’t step up immediately, our season WILL be over very shortly.

Let’s face it, even if the Rangers are ousted in the first round, I still consider this season a huge success. This team took the first step to being perennial winners. Remember, before Bawstun won the Stanley Cup last year they went 3 straight years of being done in the first 2 rounds, including 1 where they finished tops in the East. Sound familiar? It takes time for young teams to learn how to win in the playoffs. Remember, the Rangers have to play playoff hockey all season long just to get here. When the playoffs happen, they lose because everyone else catches up to them, and they no longer have that edge. The games then become a lot about talent, and your best players stepping up, as well as your support players coming through. The Rangers have gotten neither of that. However, it’s still unfair to judge such a young team based on 1 6 or 7 game stretch. This was an overachieving team that has shown it’s only 1 or 2 big pieces from being a legitimate stanley cup favorite. Let’s see if they have some magic in them to postpone the talk about what those pieces are.

50-50 Rangers @ Senators Game 4 Post Game Thoughts…

Posted by inferno272 on April 19th, 2012

This was a great game. There really is no shame in loosing a game like this. Truthfully, that’s how I feel. Am I unhappy we lost? Of course. But I still think the team played a pretty good game, defended really well, and fought tooth and nail all the way till the end. They scored a couple of PP goals, they got great goaltending, good play from their stars. It was just a damn good game that we lost. It happens. Move on, there’s still a lot of hockey to be played, Rangers just need to win 2 out of 3, with 2 home games still to be played. I like our chances.

Brad Richards was quite good tonight, as was Marian Gaborik. Gabby played very well but just couldn’t seem to get over that final hump and put the puck in the back of the net. The guy is trying really hard out there, and you can tell that duo desperately misses Carl Hagelin.

Torts decided to reunite the AA-Stepan-Gabby trio and the Dubi-Richards-Cally trio. I’m not really sure I agree with this, as the combination of Gaborik and Richards carried the Rangers for about 2 months now. I guess that shows you just how damn important Carl Hagelin is to that line when they can’t do jack without him in the lineup. As I’ve said repeatedly for months and months now, the Rangers need a legitimate 3rd option behind Gaborik and Richards. Rick Nash, Bobby Ryan, Zach Parise…whoever. They need a 3rd option, especially while their kids, who are prone to ups and down (for proof, see Derek Stepan) develop.

I hope game 5 is just as exciting.

Henrik Lunqdist was the best player on the ice tonight. Not the best player on the ice for the Rangers vs Senators game. He was the best player on the ice for the Blues, the Sharks, The Bruins, The Capitals, Martys Misfits, the Plymouth Whalers, the National teams who are practicing around the world, the 4 year old in his backyard in siberia skating on a pond. Henrik Lundqvist was the best player on any ice surface anywhere.

That’s how good he was tonight.

Let’s not sugercoat it guys, the Rangers were pretty thoroughly outplayed tonight. Sure, they had a few good scoring chances, and sure Craig Anderson himself was pretty brilliant as well, but when the Sens got control of the puck in the offensive zone, they schooled the Rangers big time. They were blasting shots from everywhere, and were crowding the net as you would expect when facing a world class goalie. Henrik was just better than them all. His stop on Kyle Turris with the clock about to expire. Nothing short of spectacular. His stops on Greening at point blank range were just as spectacular too. The way he was able to get square to him was unreal.

Give a lot of credit to the Sens, they have a damn good offensive game to them, and they showed it. Karlsson was outstanding, but the King stood tall when it mattered most.

Chris Kreider played his first ever NHL game tonight, and on the first line of all places. I think it’s a pretty tough position to put the kid in. Not only is he playing in the NHL playoffs, for his first ever game. But he’s also playing on the road, in a game with some serious bad blood, and asked to step on to the top line and keep up with 2 of the best offensive players in the game. I know Kreider has a big time future ahead of him, but boy oh boy, that’s a lot to ask of the kid don’t ya think? He played very well though, almost had a goal, and tried real hard, but he also showed that he’s not a particularly great board player, and doesn’t really know where to be on the ice as the Rangers play their cycle game. He’s not used to our system. It’s tough for him to come in and be put in that situation. I’m not sure I’d keep the kid there once Hagelin gets back. Here’s hoping the series will be over by that time.

Were the Rangers outplayed for a lot of this game? Sure, but as Bob McKenzie said, so what? The Rangers have gotten outplayed many, many, many times over the past few years, and won games. That’s why you have the highest paid goalie in the league on your team. Henrik Lundqvist SHOULD be the best player on the ice for his team, with great salary comes great responsibility, or so Spider-man tells me.

That’s all for now, off to bed!

I know the Rangers did some hitting in the game. I know they knocked Alfredsson potentially out of the series. But I felt like Ottawa dictated the physical nature of this game tonight. And I didn’t care for it one bit.

One thing this Ranger team is known for, it’s for being a hard working, heavy hitting, lunchpail type team. Tonight, they got the game taken to them, and while it took some flukey bounces for Ottawa to pull out the win, you still have to wonder how the team is feeling after being semi-dominated physically. Is that maybe an exaggeration? I’m not sure, but from where I was standing, I saw the Rangers get pummeled in fights, I saw the Sens take some major runs at Rangers without any repercussions, and I saw the Rangers get schooled in an aspect they usually do the schooling in.

Long and the short of it? The Rangers could have won tonight, but to me it would have been a little bit of a hollow win because of the way they got smacked around. Over on one of the message boards I frequent, one of the posters there mentioned Ottawa waking a sleeping giant. I think this actually may be 100% correct. I think the Rangers will be pissed off. I think Brandon Dubinsky will be pissed off. I think Brian Boyle will be pissed off. I think captain Ryan Callahan will be pissed off, and I think Chris Kreider may get his chance to play if Carl Hagelin is in fact suspended. What a way for the kid to start his career aye? Potentially playing on the top line? Heh, would be interesting to see.

OK, as mentioned in the post prior to this, I was furious because the score was ruined for me, I’m still extremely angry, so I need to go blow off some steam and maybe kill some zombies or something. I’ll see you guys later.

Really Really Really Angry

Posted by inferno272 on April 14th, 2012

I’m not angry about the loss. I’m angry about an asshole friend who texted me the fact that they lost while I was halfway through watching the game. I’m so damn pissed off right now you have no idea.

I’m not even talking about this game till I calm down.